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The AutoShopper Rustang: Our First Whack At A True CarBlog Money Pit

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On: Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 12:43PM | By: John Welch

The AutoShopper Rustang: Our First Whack At A True CarBlog Money Pit

Ahhh yes, the glory of a project car. Something about resurrecting a forgotten Street Fighter from the ashes of neglect makes my blood boil. And boy, this car appears to have been neglected. First, let's review the hunk of crap we affectionately refer to as "The Rustang."

What we have here is a 1988 Mustang LX Convertible, originally equipped with a Ford 5.0 liter V8, making a stout (for 1988) 225 bhp and 300 lb.Ft. of torque. The Rustang came with a white vinyl interior and C-4 automatic transmission. The car was driven for eleven years without a proper tune up. When we tore down the engine, we found the original spark plugs. They were pristine. Inside the block, the cylinder walls were free of scoring, and were still shiny. Though never getting a tune up, the car had its Castrol oil changed religiously, and it shows.

In the fall of 1999 the original owner of the Rustang was caught in a pile up, resulting in enough front end damage to have the car totaled. Steve Speizer, the owner's son, would have none of it. He acquired the stricken Rustang, and went about replacing every part from the bumper cover to the firewall. The first day Steve owned it, the Rustang received a new k-member, new steering pump, new steering rack, new front bushings, a new (ahem, refurbished) crossmember, a salvaged radiator, all new hoses, and a new distributor complete with new plug wires and plugs. Every piece of front end sheetmetal was replaced the next day, after a morning of junk yard tomfoolery. Basically, we pulled the necessary parts and then spent two hours yanking the badges off of burned out VWs and Bimmers.

Now the Rustang was mobile, and Steve used it as his daily driver for a year or so. He was, however, not satisfied. Eventually, an errant rock punched a 3-inch hole in the Rustang's bell housing, sparking an addiction that has been destroying Steve's wallet and soul for nine long years. A fresh transmission was installed, but it only served to make Steve jones for more. More power, more grip, a more functional convertible top. That last need took precedence, so now, in the spring of 2003, the Rustang was a $500 car with a $900 top. Fancyschmancy.

This is where the Rustang went up on jack stands and the money started flowing like water. Steve (with a little nudging from his friends) decided that the Rustang was going to meet its full potential, even if it killed him. Considering how many paychecks went down at once, it nearly did. Humans need food to survive. Rustangs sometimes trump a balanced diet. Steve opened up a Summit catalog and dove head first into some hard life lessons.

Lesson Number One: Eff, Summit, go to a swap meet. Way too many bills were dropped on Summit when the same parts, gently used, could be found at local swap meets for a fraction of the price. Take heed, we're talking about saving $2,000 or more by the end of the project.

The Rustang needed a plan, and it got one. Steve required more low-end torque, but not too much because he enjoyed the top end thrust created by the current engine and gear combination. He needed better economy, more bite out of the hole, a solid reduction in weight, and, most importantly, he needed the Rustang to talk. Once up on the stands it would now call home for years, the exhaust system was addressed.

A BBK Shorty Headers met a cat-free BBK H-Pipe at the firewall. The H-Pipe ran to two FlowMasters and ended in turndowns, only right for a primer-colored Mustang. Steve knows what his exhaust pipes look like; he doesn't care if you do. Along with the deletion of the catalytic converters, the smog pump and air conditioning were binned along with any wire, sound deadening and unsprung weight we could rip out of the Rustang's guts. A trunk-mount kit for the battery was ordered. Now to uproot the engine and get serious.

This was never supposed to be a drag car; the intention has always been to create the most useable Mustang possible. It will retain stock tires sizes, and most likely the stock Pony rims. It will remain several shades of primer for a long time. Again, Steve knows what his car can do; he doesn't care if you do.

The business end of the Rustang was pushed into Steve's cramped garage, and he set about removing the 111,000 mile motor. Once out of the car it was stripped (the insides looked as if they were brand new, no carbon build up, no oil gunk, beautiful!), cleaned, and sent of for honing. Serious honing. The block was cleaned and bored thirty over, resulting in 306 cubic inches. A new crank was purchased, as well as a few select items from Trick Flow. Trick Flow's Stage One Cams were paired with a Trick Flow 'Street Kit', essentially beefed up top end parts for the Ford five-oh. Steve has since determined that because of the slightly mild cams the Rustang does not 'talk' enough, so those will be replaced soon with something a little more throaty. The Street Kit comes complete with upper and lower intake, bored, honed, and cleaned cylinder heads (these were especially fetching pieces of machinery), new and very spicy valve train, an air filter, and a Ford Racing throttle body. Steve retrieved his newly milled and painted block, took it home, and went to work. Two days later we were plopping an estimated 340 to 380 bhp into the lowly Rustang. This is where our story really begins, dear reader, now that the Rustang is capable of getting out of its own way.

Over the next few weeks we will chronicle the final build up of the Rustang, starting this afternoon with the replacement of the tired automatic. Who wants to inject new life into an engine just to have it hampered by an ancient four-speed autobox? Certainly not Steve. Check back this afternoon for our first installment of the AutoShopper Rustang Restoration, "A Sticky Bolt, New Pedals, and The Brake Light Stop Switch."

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Johnny V | 6:08PM (Tue, Dec 21, 2010)

looks like a real project

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